Yang, 45, who ran for president despite having no political background, surprised many observers by qualifying for debates and remaining in the contest longer than some veteran politicians.
The Ivy League-educated son of Taiwanese immigrants, who was bidding to be the country’s first Asian-American president, launched his longshot candidacy in 2017 as a virtual unknown.
Yang’s signature proposal, a universal basic income that would pay every American $1,000 a month, was his answer to the “fourth industrial revolution,” the rise of automation that he said destroyed millions of manufacturing jobs and, as a consequence, paved the way for Donald Trump’s 2016 election.
“Donald Trump is not the cause of all our problems, and we’re making a mistake when we act like he is,” Yang said at a Democratic debate on Friday.
“He is a symptom of a disease that has been building up in our communities for years and decades.”
Reuters recently interviewed a New Hampshire family that received a $1,000-a-month “freedom dividend” for a year from the Yang campaign.
The family spent most of the money on college bills – but also on an improv class for the unemployed dad.
After an hours-long interview by Yang at their home last year, the Fassis started collecting their monthly check – no strings attached.
Jodie Fassi said she was probably more excited about the dividend than her husband. “I mean, who wouldn’t want free money? And I pay the bills, so I know what our finances are,” she said. “I was smiling from ear to ear.”
During a debate last year, Yang, an entrepreneur and former tech executive, disclosed his plan to give 10 families in the United States $1,000 a month for a year as a test case.
He has argued that automation is destroying U.S. jobs and that the dividend would help insulate Americans from economic insecurity.
Political opponents slammed the plan as impractical. But Yang said granting the dividends to all adults would make society healthier by allowing people to pursue creative passions and take better care of themselves.
It is the sort of out-of-the-box idea that has won Yang a loyal following, although not enough to lift him into serious contention among the Democratic field.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson Editing by Sonya Hepinstall. Pluralist contributed to this report.)